49ers’ Shanahan pledges allegiance to Purdy and Lance, not Garoppolo
SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy and Trey Lance drew a vocal commitment from the quarterback-challenged 49ers’ brass Wednesday.
Jimmy Garoppolo? Feels like a great goodbye, baby.
Coach Kyle Shanahan essentially ruled out Garoppolo from returning for a seventh season, saying: “I don’t see any scenario of that.”
Instead, Shanahan pledged his allegiance to the two, young, injured quarterbacks who, unlike Garoppolo, remain under contract.
“I know we have two starters on our team right now I think we can win with,” coach Kyle Shanahan said in the end-of-season press conference. “When you have that situation, you’re not that eager to go looking around.”
Thus, there is no such clamoring from him for a high-profile veteran savior, not even Garoppolo after helping rescue this season.
Now comes more quarterback juggling, after having to deploy four quarterbacks — Lance, Garoppolo, Purdy, Josh Johnson — through this season’s march to the NFC West title, a 13-4 record, and two playoff wins before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game loss at Philadlephia.
“I don’t think there is much to handle. One guy can’t go, and the other guy should be able to go in OTAs (spring workouts),” Shanahan said.
A year ago, Lance took over as the starting quarterback, and Garoppolo wasn’t able to go because of March shoulder surgery that wrecked his trade value. Garoppolo took a pay cut to return in a backup capacity between Lance and Purdy, then Jimmy G quickly reclaimed his job, got the 49ers’ on a winning streak, then bowed out with a Dec. 4 foot fracture.
That, of course, launched Purdy’s grand entrance to the NFL, with the rookie producing six wins before a significant elbow injury promptly forced him out of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game defeat.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch indicated Wednesday that Purdy. while still considering his options, likely faces a fast-track path to recovery, with a six-month rehabilitation from a UCL repair to insert a brace, rather than undergo a complete reconstruction and a year-long hiatus from Tommy John surgery.
“The positive bit of news is that it seems to be consistent that the right approach is the one that takes the six-month mark (of recovery with an internal brace),” Lynch said. “Everybody also will say you never know until you get in there (with surgery) … We seem encouraged by the prognosis that that’s kind of where that’s at.”
Added Shanahan: “That was the coolest thing for me to hear about, that once three months is over, they start the rehab to build the arm back slowly. By six months, it’s build back. I started to ask questions, ‘Do you ease him in?’ They said, ‘No, the build up is between three to six months.’ ”
A day after Lance said he expects his right ankle should be cleared for full activity within a month, Shanahan did not dispute that, but added how he’d likely ease the third-year quarterback into the offseason program in April drills before organized team activities in late May.
Lance was mere background fodder Wednesday to Purdy’s plight, other than Lynch saying: “Trey’s had a rough go the last couple of years. He’s obviously going to have to prove that he can stay healthy.”
Lynch insisted that 49ers’ ceaseless injuries at quarterback are a “coincidence” and not linked to the offensive scheme, adding that Purdy’s had a durable playing career before finding himself in “an inopportune situation.” Shanahan was terser with his response.
“If you looked at the injuries, common sense would answer that,” Shanahan began his retort. “How did they get hurt? I’m sorry Josh got a concussion when he hit the ground. I’m sorry our quarterback got his elbow bent backward on a normal, dropback pass. I’m sorry on a dropback pass someone rolled up on Jimmy’s ankle. And then we have a dual-threat quarterback who got hurt running the ball.
“To throw all those four in one category, no quarterbacks got hurt when we had to handle it off the whole second half, so look into that.”
Defensive coordinator hunt
For the second time in three years, Shanahan must hire a new defensive coordinator, this time to replace DeMeco Ryans, who became the Houston Texans on Tuesday. Ryans was pro
moted two years ago to succeed Robert Saleh, the New York Jets’ coach.
Exterior candidates in play are Vic Fangio (the 49ers defensive coordinator from 2011-14), Ejiro Evero (Denver Broncos coordinator) and Chris Harris (Tennessee Titans assistant), a league source confirmed. It’s not known if Shanahan has interviewed any of his current assistants for a promotion, such as defensive backs coaches Daniel Bullocks and Corey Undlin.
Shanahan “loves” the 49ers scheme and how it fits their defenders at every level, so he’s “hoping to find somebody who fits with us personality-wise and schemewise.”
As for the Texans hiring Ryans, “They made the best hire that was by far available.” Ryans also was a finalist for the Denver Broncos’ job that went to Sean Payton. Shanahan confirmed that Bobby Slowick (pass-game coordinator) and Anthony Lynn (running backs coach) were requested for coordinator interviews with the Texans and the Commanders, respectively.
Lynch commits to return
Tempted last year by Amazon Prime’s lucrative offer to return to broadcasting, Lynch was asked if he’ll remain the 49ers’ general manager for a seventh year, to which he replied “I think so,” then turned to Shanahan sitting next to him and added: “You good, Kyle? … I plan on being here, committed to doing this and having fun at it and committed to getting better. I’m real proud of what we did this year, which is hard when our standard is to win the whole thing.”
Left tackle Trent Williams, 34, was non-commital Tuesday when asked about his 2023 plans, but Shanahan said he expects the AllPro to return, saying: “I know it’s very hard at his age to do what you do for that long and come up short. But I’d be real surprised if Trent wasn’t fired up in a few weeks.”
Shanahan looked just as haggard as past playoff exits, though perhaps not as much as after the 2019 team’s Super Bowl loss, which took four days for him to make his end-ofseason press conference. Reflecing on Sunday’s loss, he said in part: ” I don’t feel they got the chance to totally compete, and that was hard to stomach. That’s life. That’s what we signed up that for this sport. You have to grieve that a little bit. I know how we’re going to be next year. I’ll be fired up and confident and ready to go. I know our team will be like that.”
Lynch acknowledged Nick Bosa’s leverage heading into contract talks on a mulit-year extension, saying he deserves to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award next week. “He’s earned that. He’s a fantastic football player, he’s a game-changer of a football player,” Lynch said. “I should stop now. But everybody already knows all that.”
Lynch then reminded everyone of the 49ers’ history in re-signing stars such as Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, Trent Williams, George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo since 2018. “But it takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence,” Lynch said.
Bosa is set to make nearly $19 million this year on his expiring rookie deal. As for free agency next month, Lynch did not break down the 49ers’ long list of candidates, but he did endorse the return of cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who’s been rehabilitating from October’s knee reconstruction.
The 49ers figure to exercise wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s fifthyear option for 2024 by this May. Lynch did not outright say so, but did say: “Brandon had a fantastic year. I really applaud Brandon, Kyle calls him a warrior often, we appreciate the way he plays, the way he’s improved, his play since he’s been here. We’ll figure that out in due time.”
Defensive end Drake Jackson, the 49ers’ top pick at No. 61 overall last year, was inactivated four of the final five games after wearing down his rookie season. “It was a long season and I think he learned as the year goes, if you
lose any power in this league, it gets a lot harder,” Shanahan said. “We had a decent group of rushers and I think as the year went out, he got thin, it got too long for him. His body wasn’t quite ready for what we needed. We felt toward the end of the year better with the other guys. He’s still the exact same talent that we drafted. We really enjoyed the person, but like I said to a lot of our guys in our meeting yesterday, people don’t get what anyone means by how long an NFL season is.”